“Normal is getting dressed in clothes that you buy for work and driving through traffic in a car that you are still paying for in order to get to the job you need to pay for the clothes and the car, and the house you leave vacant all day so you can afford to live in it.” – Ellen Goodman
Between 1980 and 1984 there was a show called That’s Incredible!. Hosted by Cathy Lee Crosby, Fran Tarkenton and John Davidson, each week they would parade everyday individuals doing extraordinary things. I can remember watching people pull steam engines with only their teeth, holding their breath under water for minutes on end and countless other feats of strength, balance, endurance and bravery. I believe it was from that program that I became curious even obsessed with discovering what my potential might be. Beyond art and design, I’ve never specialized in any one thing rather I’ve always been a serial experimenter of sorts. Once I self-taught myself a skill like juggling, walking on my hands, or even a skateboarding trick, I’d just as quick move on to something new. 12-year-old me would be pretty surprised at how much 45-year-old me has maintained the same curiosity and enthusiasm for development as 12-year-old me. So like LL Cool J said, “Don’t call it a comeback, I been here for years.
And when I was recently chided by someone about the Ironman I’ve now been training for since March, they referred to my succession of ambitious goal setting and adventure seeking as the tired and well-worn expression of ‘Mid-Life Crisis’. Yes, crisis.
Is happily getting up early on a Sunday morning to run ten miles just because you enjoy it, because you’re in the best shape of your life and still improving a crisis? Or is facing obesity, diabetes and daily doses of pharmaceuticals to keep your blood pressure in check? Is owning little and owing even less really a crisis or is the realization you’ll be working past the age of seventy-five to pay down an increasing accumulation of debt? Did this sad and out of shape dude really think it was my life that was in crisis or was it just a defensive and passive aggressive way of trying to take some wind out of my sail?
No man, I didn’t take the proverbial blue pill but don’t call it midlife and definitely don’t call it a crisis. I get to live life on my own terms, filled with as much gratitude as adventure and with as much contentment as ambition and one that a small 12-year-old me from Grove City, Ohio would certainly describe as “incredible.”
“Conditions are never perfect. ‘Someday’ is a disease that will take your dreams to the grave with you. If it’s important to you and you want to do it eventually, just do it and correct the course along the way. We weren’t meant to only accumulate wealth and shoulder responsibilities all of our lives. And our goal is not to build a career that is a large as possible, but rather one that bothers us as little as possible. ”
This is actually not one but three different Tim Ferris quotes strung together from The 4 Hour Work Week. I (semi)retired at age 45 and though I only read his book after that, it took the words out of my own mouth or vice versa.
Mayumi and I took a break in the middle our bike/run yesterday to play at the playground we were passing through. While on the teeter-totter, I repeatedly launched her several inches off the seat during my down stroke while she laughed but held on with white-knuckled grip.
She asked, “Dad, even when you get older, will you always stay like this and play with me?”
I told her of course I would but in truth I really wanted to ask her the same thing.
Happy Father’s Day Mayumi.
You continue to shape and influence who I am as much as I try to shape and influence you, probably more.
Happy Father’s Day to the rest of you who feel the same.
I’ve written about time management more than once. Maybe it’s the forty-something in me but I’m obsessed with it. There is no commodity more valuable than time. Jim Rohn would say that effective time management is the best-kept secret of the rich (rich meaning successful, not wealthy) and I could not agree more. I also learned many years ago that time management is a kind of misnomer because you can’t actually manage time. It marches along at its own pace. We all have the same twenty-four hours in a day, no more and no less. And you can’t save it; you can only spend it.
Time management in a word is just priorities. And you are either managing your priorities or everyone else’s.
Most people whether they admit it or not are working on other people’s goals and not their own. Because when you instinctively look to your phone for new messages or spend the better part of days battling your email inbox, you’re actually working on other people’s priorities, not your own. When you pick up the phone every time it rings or look at your email several times in an hour, it’s no longer something for your convenience rather the convenience of others. And when you go to Facebook several times a day to see what your friends are up to it’s an admission that their life is more interesting than your own.
Over a year ago I stopped reading and replying to nearly 95% of emails. I doubt I need to provide more back-story as to why.
Now I rarely even look at my inbox until my morning routine is complete. A routine that includes yoga, meditation, a 300 calorie protein breakfast, quality time with my wife and daughter, and exercise. A routine designed to serve me, my health and relationships important to me.
Where I used to write hundreds of emails in a week, I now send a little as ten and usually less than that. Yes, this makes me more productive and yes, stress goes away in proportion to the amount of data smog you accept in your life but it’s other people’s reaction that has surprised me more than anything else.
While I don’t work full-time, I do have highly special projects I give time to each week. And the talented and exceptional people I work with on these programs are also aware of my commitment to personal goals and development. This past week I actually had more than one person practically apologize for asking me to assist on some critical and time sensitive deliverable. This is work that I am not only well paid for but very happy to do.
It occurred to me how other people respect my time even more as they find out how much I value it. They see how precious my time is to me so they value it too. In the larger context, it reminded me that people will respect us when they see how much we respect ourselves. That they call it self-respect for a reason; you give it to yourself. That we are not victims and in life we don’t get what we want or what we work for but what we accept.
I could read this poem every single morning for a hundred years and it would never fail to move and inspire me…
ITHAKA by Constantine Cavafy
When you set out for Ithaka
ask that your way be long,
full of adventure, full of instruction.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – do not fear them:
such as these you will never find
as long as your thought is lofty, as long as a rare
emotion touch your spirit and your body.
The Laistrygonians and the Cyclops,
angry Poseidon – you will not meet them
unless you carry them in your soul,
unless your soul raise them up before you.
Ask that your way be long.
At many a Summer dawn to enter
with what gratitude, what joy –
ports seen for the first time;
to stop at Phoenician trading centres,
and to buy good merchandise,
mother of pearl and coral, amber and ebony,
and sensuous perfumes of every kind,
sensuous perfumes as lavishly as you can;
to visit many Egyptian cities,
to gather stores of knowledge from the learned.
Have Ithaka always in your mind.
Your arrival there is what you are destined for.
But don’t in the least hurry the journey.
Better it last for years,
so that when you reach the island you are old,
rich with all you have gained on the way,
not expecting Ithaka to give you wealth.
Ithaka gave you a splendid journey.
Without her you would not have set out.
She hasn’t anything else to give you.
And if you find her poor, Ithaka hasn’t deceived you.
So wise you have become, of such experience,
that already you’ll have understood what these Ithakas mean.
Sometimes I wish I could have known years ago what I know now. I’m guessing I’m not the only one. But things are complex and the more you recognize this fact along with a bit more patience for yourself and others, I’m guessing, the happier you are. Proof of this can often be found on Facebook where people are fond of posting their trials of being surrounded by so many other incompetent people. Nearly as awkward as people who shop at Walmart but make fun of people who shop at Walmart.
My wife and I share one car so I drive her to work every morning before I turn the radio to ESPN and listen to Colin Cowherd on the way back to my home-office. Today, a caller lamented about a socially progressive flash point that ESPN covered during its programing over the weekend because it made him uncomfortable. His only argument was that he’d, “Have a hard time explaining this issue to his seven-year old child.” It’s not the first time I’ve heard this. Whenever a progressive topic makes headlines there always appears a social conservative ready with the, “How do I explain this to my kids?” disagreement.
This prompted two immediate ideas:
1. You don’t. Not every topic is appropriate for a small child.
2. Just because a thing cannot be explained to a sever-year old in a few minutes does not make it wrong or even inappropriate.
I’m the father of my own seven-year old and there are thousands of complex ideas and systems I can’t explain to her in under a minute, a few weeks for that matter or even longer. For example it takes years of practice, training and comprehension for a person to become a surgeon. It takes years of study to master financial institutions and strategies for investment. Most things in life, anything of real value takes years to understand let alone master.
There are lessons I’m STILL learning everyday; lessons that have taken me years to only recently understand. Not a day goes by that I don’t learn more or expand my understanding of my vocation, of my relationships or even of my self. And I know there are many lessons I still have to learn. I’ve also changed my opinion back and forth again on a number of issues as I become more learned about it or presented with new information surrounding it.
I guess I just cannot comprehend living in a world that if can’t be explained to my seven-year old in a few minutes, makes me “uncomfortable”.
A teachable moment? There’s no such thing. Most things cannot be understood in a moment. Most things takes time even years of experience (and even a few mistakes) to learn. That is the lesson I teach to my daughter. That and if a guy kisses another guy, even a football player, it’s no big deal.
I’ve heard that diplomacy is the art of letting someone else have your way…
“There’s only one way, just one, to get anyone to do anything and that is by making that person want to do it.”
I’ve likely read more than a hundred books on marketing, behavioral science and personal development and I’m only now getting around to Dale Carnegie’s classic.
What a fantastic read. This might be my next personal development vacation and seminar.
I have been getting asked why I ‘retired’ at age 45 the way I did and though I have no canned pithy answer, this is about a close to one as I could create. Most people have everything they want right in front of them but don’t realize it’s there. It’s right there.
When you design your career around your life instead of a life around your career, your world changes in ways you can’t anticipate…
This story never gets old…got yourself a cuppa? Then I’ll begin:
A business man was on vacation on a beautiful island. The pace was slow and the people seemed easy going and… well… simple hearted. One day he hired a local fisherman to take him out on his boat. The scenery was incredible. The water as blue and clear as Daniel Craigs eyes, the wind just a gentle whisper. It was a zen-like moment between man and nature. The fishing was plentiful and the island was undisturbed and quiet. Recognizing opportunity, the business man turned to his guide and said, ‘With all this at our disposal I could really change your life.’ ‘Really?’ the fisherman replied. The business man said, ‘Yes, why we could catch and sell fish by the boat loads. Nobody comes here so there is no competition. With some creative marketing we could do something that…
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Mayumi runs her own dog walking and pet sitting business. Occasionally, as a part of her service, we’ll even sit at our own home for a few hours to keep a pooch company. A while back it was Baxter, a white terrier from the 17th floor who came for a visit. I was cooking dinner and Mayumi wanted to give Baxter a treat, specifically a bone. I asked her if dogs like bones and she quickly replied that they did. “Dog’s love bones,” were her exact words. I said they did not love bones, “Dog’s like steak, they settle for bones.” We proved this together by giving Baxter a choice and set both down on a plate. Of course Baxter went for the steak.
I told Mayumi that people do this to themselves too. We settle all the time and tell ourselves we’re happy. Sometimes it’s because it’s all we know but often it’s a convenient lie we tell ourselves so that we don’t have to work harder or take risks. And sometimes we just confuse gratitude with satisfaction.
Be grateful for what you have but work like hell for what you really want. Just because you desire more doesn’t mean you’re unhappy with what you have. It’s OK to follow your dreams and your potential. No, not follow, chase! Go after it with a club even, as Jack London used to say.
Don’t settle for bones if what you really desire is steak.